rain: learning to dance in life’s rainfall

“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.” — Gilbert K. Chesterton


We’ve been blessed with a summer of mostly bright blue skies and unprecedented heatwaves in the UK, yet it’s left us desperate for the slightest sign of rain. Grass is as tinder-dry as straw, and leaves and plants are wilting into an early autumnal response.

When it did eventually rain recently, I watched with awe and felt like I wanted to dance in it. The air became clean and fresh and our hearts lifted. The sight, the sound, the joy of it was palpable.

Though there are times in our lives when joy departs and we feel as if we’re living under a dark cloud. One that temporarily blocks the sun or stays around for weeks and months.

It’s hard to savour the changing seasons if our souls stay parked in winter, but the poem below encourages us to maintain a brighter perspective as we look to the Source of all things who gives us hope to start again.

Let the rain fall

let the rain fall
let it saturate my soul
soft morning dew
mists of your holy breath
daisy fresh and mountain-hewed 

let the rain come
from darkened skies or touched
by rays of sun
may I open up my heart
ready to receive each drop

let the rain speak
as it fills me to the brim 
with inner joy
the kind that cannot be faked
and nothing can destroy

let the rain glisten
bright dewdrops from heaven
tiny little pearls
miniature gifts from above
reminding me of your love

let the rain quench
the thirst I have inside
assuage the ache
in the places hard and dry
and sluice away my mistakes
© joylenton

Perhaps we can learn to splash in the puddles and dance in the rain, and face the deluges and showers in our lives with equanimity. Whether they’re sudden and slight or prolonged and persistent, we can deliberately look for the joy and the light, the relief and reprieve, the comfort and calm, the rainbow promises which God brings to all hurting hearts.

Rain will come. We can’t always be prepared for it. As soaking sheets or delicate showers, rain won’t always be welcomed by us, but we can remind ourselves of the cover, the umbrella protectiveness which God provides over us with His overseeing care, compassion and love. Then we can say, “Let the rain fall.” with the courage, confidence and resilience which faith and hope bring to reassure us that all will be well.

“Healing rain is a real touch from God. It could be physical healing or emotional or whatever.” — Michael W. Smith

NOTE: This poem was extracted from my Sacred Noticing e-book which is on offer at Amazon from 02/09/22 to 07/09/22 as my birthday gift to you! If you would like a reminder of sunnier days, there’s a free printable pdf below of a poem called ‘Life on pause’ which is also extracted from Sacred Noticing. And you might like to read my first foray into fiction with a short story about a boy who dared speak the truth. Blessings and love. Xx 🙂 ❤

Gethsemane: a place of anguished obedience, prayer, and grace

“Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, ‘Sit here while I go over there to pray.’ He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’ Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, ‘Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour?’” — Matthew 26:36-40 NLT

Gethsemane

To remain, stay awake, and pray,
these are the tasks
assigned to the disciples

and to us
as well, even now,
as we face our own battles.

Yet we brag, big ourselves up,
and anticipate greatness
from souls of dust,

or we cringe and creep
because we feel
like worms without worth.

But God knows the state of us
all too well,
and he grants us the grace

to have a fresh start
if we're willing
to ask for his help.

Jesus sought support himself
but found his friends
deeply lacking

in their ability to keep alert,
to pray faithfully
and to stay awake.

In the depths of his humanity
he identified
completely with you and me,

and he still gives 
us grace when we mess up
because he knows
just what we are made of.
© joylenton

Reflection

Picture yourself in this scene. Jesus, your close friend, teacher and miracle worker, is approaching his darkest hour. You’re aware that he is special, and talking about being crucified, but your mind hasn’t yet fully grasped the reality of who he is and why he came, though you long to please him.

But it’s been a long day, with a seemingly wasteful anointing at Bethany, an unexpected betrayal by Judas, a denial, a final supper together, and now this period of praying in the garden of Gethsemane. You’re just plain exhausted. Jesus gently scolds you, and you feel dreadful because your tired body has let you down.

Prayer

Suffering Saviour,

As we read these words, we wonder if we would have been any better at watching and praying with you than the disciples were. Sadly, their fatigue caused them to slumber in your hour of greatest need. You faced this ordeal alone because your friends failed you at this final hurdle.

Even so, you understood their weakness and gave them grace. Just as you do for us. From our post-crucifixion perspective, we know how it ends—how these failing, faltering disciples became devoted, faith-filled men with transformed minds and hearts. Oh may we have an ending like this too!
Amen

This post has been excerpted from my ‘Experiencing Lent: Sensing the Sacred in Our Midst’ book. You can discover more about the meaning of and the biblical context for Gethsemane in this article. Blessings and love to you! Xx 🙂 ❤

mirror: seeing ourselves as we really are

It’s no secret that nature and wildlife have things to teach us as they quietly go about their lives. The poem below was written after observing a bluetit’s antics as she circled around our car’s wing mirror for a few minutes.

We were too entranced watching her to think of recording the moment. But oh joy, she returned the next day and I caught it briefly with these blurred, smudgy photos out of the kitchen window! 😉

Birdwatching 

She flits
back and forth
admiring herself in glass,
enraptured 
by the way her image
is captured 
so vividly in the wing
mirror, where she can’t resist 
such a view of loveliness.

It’s as if
she cannot quite 
believe that this tiny bird 
has anything 
whatsoever to do with her,
or is more than a passing 
resemblance, perhaps—
does this sight signify, imply
what she might really look like?

So she shifts
her gaze here 
and there, hopping keenly
once more over
the bonnet of the car,
then back again
to preen, to marvel,
to check she does exist 
in this world, in this space.

And she twists 
her perspective 
as she turns upside 
down, and almost inside
out in her eagerness 
to believe she is
just as sweet, just as
lovely, just as glorious
as the mirror suggests.
© joylenton

“But we Christians have no veil over our faces; we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him.” — 2 Corinthians 3:18 TLB

This sweet incident made me wonder how we might respond when we catch a glimpse of ourselves in a mirror. Are we enchanted, curious, disinterested or disappointed? Does it matter if we’re less than thrilled with our outer appearance?

Because we are so much more than the sum of our parts. Though having a balanced love for ourselves and a healthy self-acceptance is to be encouraged. We need to transform our wounded minds and hearts by believing we are who the Bible says we are.

I can attest that it’s been damaging for me to have low self-esteem for years due to painful childhood experiences that seared my soul and induced decades of brokenness. God longs for us to see ourselves the way He does: beautiful, beloved, healed and whole, a joy to behold.

Maybe looking in the mirror might cause us to seek the kind of mirror that truly reflects our God-given beauty, grace and loveliness, especially if we’ve failed to fully notice or appreciate it.

Do we return, time and again, to check our reflection in Scripture as it holds up a mirror to our souls and gives us insight into the close, loving relationship we can have with God? Perhaps we should… 🙂 ❤

fear: from scared to secure

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” — Isaiah 41:10 NIV

From scared to secure

Fear comes whispering 
in your ears
but it doesn’t sound
like fear at all. Oh, no,

it’s more like the voice
of reason, of questioning,
of common sense.

It brings all the what ifs,
what abouts, oughts and shoulds 
which are hard to ignore,
harder still to justify 

when faith feels a stretch
too far, while trust 
is asking you to take

a great big leap
into the abyss—into the 
dark. Our human hearts
are so easily 

alarmed, unsettled, made fraught
with worry and concern,
by scary thoughts,

by being asked for more
than we are capable 
of. But that’s only if
we rely on human

reasoning alone,
and forget to factor
in the power 

of our amazing,
death defying,
grace and hope 
supplying God. Because then

we’re not facing
anything all by ourselves 
or trying to make

important decisions 
without his help. But we are
relying, depending for all
we are worth,

on God’s mercy 
and wisdom 
to gently guide

and steer us forward.
It takes the sting 
out of whatever we
might be facing. 

The anxiety will leave,
be released
and slowly dissipate

as we move from being 
scared to securely 
dependent on God’s 
foresight and grace.
© joylenton 

“God hasn’t lost courage. God isn’t wavering on endurance. God doesn’t fear another day or another test, and God is standing behind me. He is making available for me all that he is. By grace through faith, I have nothing to fear, no reason to feel defeated.” — Gary L. Thomas ‘Simply Sacred: Daily Readings

Fear tends to infiltrate us out of nowhere. One minute we’re happily going about our days, and the next (or so it seems) we become scared of this or that, stuck in the muddy quagmire of worry, and consumed by anxiety and fear. A wall goes up and we cannot scale it, despite our best efforts.

I’ve experienced this over the last few months with the added stress of moving house before our previous property is sold. It’s the plethora of changes and extra admin that sink me, alongside the sheer weary overwhelm of being busy beyond my body’s capacity to cope. But there is hope and there is help for all troubled souls.

No scary situation we might face is a match for our matchless, fear-less heavenly Father’s grace.

God sits beside us, gently nudging us back to trust, softly reminding us of His all-encompassing Presence, great faithfulness, and constant love. And more than that, we have the gift of His calming and comforting Peace to keep us from staying afraid. May our faith be above every fear as we hand each one over to God.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” — John 14:27 NIV

anticipating: the holy art of noticing

“Nature is too thin a screen; the glory of the omnipresent God bursts through everywhere” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

My mostly sedentary, housebound life has, rather surprisingly, greatly enhanced whatever ability I might have for noticing. Observation pays dividends of hope and contentment whenever I look closely at living creatures, trees, flowers, and plants.

Nature lures me like a siren call, and I respond with joy, knowing how it lifts my spirit to engage with it all.

Anticipation builds as the seasons change because they all have different aspects that charm us. Life goes on without our full attentiveness, of course, but when we do pause to pay attention we are rewarded with wonderful scenic views, deeper appreciation, participation with the created world, spiritual insights, and maybe a poem to share..

Anticipating

Holiness seeps 
from each breath of wind,
whispering your majesty
because the still, 
small voice speaks 
louder than anything.

The land anticipates
your glorious presence 
as it waits to receive
each day’s instruction 
to shine your glory
and signal your peace.

Yes, even now,
with dripping trees bowed
low against each movement
of blustery wind and rain,
while a watery sun
licks the flowers again.

Even here, as the pigeon 
pokes her beak
into saturated soil,
expectant of finding 
seed, and the blackbirds
stoop to gather worms
as their daily spoil.

Nature might appear 
casually indifferent 
to holy breath 
but it shouts out the loudest
words of praise
to its Maker, always.

Earth has learnt
how to keep you
as its primary focus,
remaining sensitive 
to all the shifts
in its rhythmic pulse,
its seasonal chorus.

Oh may we be stirred 
to listen to its vibrant 
words, and give our own 
response, as our hearts rejoice 
in also being seen and heard.

May your peace rule
and reign 
in the midst of chaos 
because answers 
will flow, even if we think
no one can hear us.
© joylenton

“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.” ~ George Washington Carver

For those of you who might have been anticipating just when I would return and write here again, I’m glad to be back! But I have to say that I’m not sure as yet how regular my posts will be for a while, as this post explains. Keep noticing my friends. It will reward you more than you know to develop and heighten your awareness of God at work in the world. Xx 🙂 ❤

rain: blessing falling from the heavens

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.” — Isaiah 44:3-4 NIV

Rain has sprayed these shores since the white brilliance of snow left us. We’ve had day after day of unrelenting rain and skies veiled in monochrome shades of grey.

Enough to sink a ship or sink our flagging spirits. But what if there was a different way to view rain? Could we find a fresh perspective on the downpours we receive and are not always thankful for?

Because biblical rain can be seen as a blessing, a gift of grace, a pointer to renewal, refreshment, and a vital, life-giving presence.

If we could look at rain through the lens of holy love, then we might welcome more of it in our lives—even if it brings dark clouds with glimpses of sunshine breaking out behind them.

Holy rain

 Your grace-fullness 
 tips me off balance
 because it inhabits 
 everything that exists,

 all that is seen 
 and unseen by us,
 revealed or deeply
 shrouded in mist. 

 It's a soul saturation, 
 a world drenching
 and a universe 

 bending under the sheer 
 glorious weight found 
 in your holy rain.

 It resembles hidden 
 treasure, buried deep
 within the thisness 
 of all things, 

 concealed as
 a vat of vintage coinage, 
 perhaps, rare and valuable 
 beyond words.

 My mind fails to fully 
 fathom its depths
 and the way it inhabits 
 my dailiness,

 weaving like silken
 threads between
 the darkened eaves 
 of each ordinary day. 
 © joylenton

The frequent showers and deluges that disrupt our days could be seen as openings for God’s presence, His refreshment for dry ground and our own parched souls, and a holy outpouring of His goodness and grace upon this thirsty world.

Have you been able to trace God’s blessings coming to you recently, either in tiny drops or abundant showers? How has it altered your perspective on what you are experiencing? I’d love you to share below. 🙂 ❤

“So keep on trying to know the Lord. His coming to us is as sure as the rising of the sun. He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain giving water to the earth.” — Hosea 6:3 NLV

waiting: the holy work of Advent and beyond

“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.” ― Elisabeth Elliot

Waiting 

 sunlight weakens
 colour fades as mists descend
 December's here
 wrapping us in thick fogginess
 hunker down, it's nearly Christmas

 days slide by
 in a rush toward the night
 our souls moan and sigh
 darkness outside increases
 the onward march is ceaseless

 we become hungry
 for hope, for warmth, for light
 a safe place to abide
 while our souls grow accustomed
 to the season we are in

 clothed with silhouettes
 the trees stand sentinel-bare
 like bereft soldiers
 guarding the fort of their thoughts
 waiting for spring's reward

 maybe you and I
 can keep the vigil with them
 our hearts tuned to spring
 as wintry winds whistle hard
 let's remain patient and calm
 © joylenton

“This is the most precious answer God can give us: wait. It makes us cling to him rather than to an outcome. God knows what I need; I do not. He sees the future; I cannot. His perspective is eternal; mine is not. He will give me what is best for me when it is best for me.” ― Vaneetha Rendall Risner, The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering

Friends, you’ve been waiting several weeks to see when I might return to writing in this space. Thank you for your patience! I’m so glad to be back. We seem to spend much of our lives waiting for this and that, don’t we? The season of Advent highlights how to wait with intention, with purpose, with hope and expectation in our hearts.

May we begin it with such anticipation. And may we aim to listen harder for God’s soft footsteps in our hearts. He longs to draw near to us and whisper His wisdom to our receptive souls but so often we become weary in the waiting and slow to respond. Let’s ask God to increase our ability to stay, to be open, to wait, and to receive. Because Jesus, our Light-bringer is well worth waiting for.

prayer: it makes a greater difference than we know

prayer - paper aeroplane - it makes a greater difference than we know - Joy Lenton @poetryjoy.com

So often we think of prayer like sending flimsy paper aeroplanes into the ether, where they act like drifting darts that fail to hit their intended target. But what if we saw each prayer more as an arrow that reaches straight to the heart of God? 

Might that make a difference in our willingness to pray, and encourage our hope that all prayer is heard and answered in some way? I think so. Because the bible urges us to pray at all times and in all seasons, while it declares how our prayers can rise as fragrant incense to God’s throne above.

”Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” — Max Lucado

prayer - “Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.” quote (C) Corrie Ten Boom @poetryjoy.com

Prayer isn’t something to be feared because of our perceived failure at it. Rather, prayer is to be welcomed as a wonderful, privileged part of our relationship with God, as we maintain an open dialogue with Him. And when we take all our worries and concerns to God, we get to experience His rest and peace.

The poem below describes the frustration we might experience when we seemingly get no answers to prayer. It also points to the biblical hope and promise we have of our prayers actually landing up where they should—straight to the loving heart of our Father God.

Paper aeroplanes

I try to shoot
paper aeroplanes
into the ether

but they fall,
floating aimlessly,
landing languidly
at my feet,

while others curve,
slither and slide
across the ceiling,

darting like flies,
getting nowhere
it seems.

I cannot see
why they don’t hit
their intended target,

pierce through layers
of fluffy cloud,
this veiled curtain

of azure blue shroud
where hope enough
exists to send them off.

I can only assume,
more and more
as time passes,

that they are too small,
deemed unworthy planes,
perhaps, tipped off

balance, somehow,
sent careening
sideways, adrift,

instead of being
faithfully received.
Yet the eyes of faith

suggest I look further,
try to see beyond
and believe

there is a place
where clouds will part,
open up for this

faithfully sent
aerial fleet,
these fragile, tentative

aeroplanes of prayer
to actually penetrate
the air, the heavens,
where they are

joyfully received above,
carefully curated,
acted upon with love.
© joylenton

prayer - Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance... quote (C) Martin Luther @poetryjoy.com

“Prayer lays hold of God’s plan and becomes the link between His will and its accomplishment on earth. Amazing things happen, and we are given the privilege of being the channels of the Holy Spirit’s prayer.” — Elisabeth Elliot

Where has prayer made a difference in your life or the lives of those you’ve prayed for? Let’s rejoice in it together… 🙂 ❤

courage: rising up to face life’s challenges

courage - rising up to face life's challenges @poetryjoy.com

We might think that being courageous is strictly for heroes and heroines. But we’d be wrong. Because all of us will face difficulties and challenges, need to access courage, develop resilience, and discover our inner brave as we take each small step of faith.

With God’s help, we can scale the mountains before us or find a way to go around them. Although the path might be thorny and hard, God will infuse strength and courage into our hearts. All we need do is ask.

“Nothing but encouragement can come to us as we dwell upon the faithful dealing of our Heavenly Father in centuries gone by. Faith in God has not saved people from hardships and trials, but it has enabled them to bear tribulations courageously and to emerge victoriously.” — Lee Roberson

courage - “Discouraged not by difficulties without, or the anguish of ages within quote - Helen Keller @poetryjoy.com

Courage

tugging at weeds
I disturb a sleepy beetle
he staggers out blind
moves drunkenly across grass
losing his way on hot tiles

I watch him
skittering unsteadily
like a skater
wobbling on the ice
thrown off their stride

before long
he seeks refuge again
a dark recess
lush, fresh greenery
a new, safe habitat

it doesn’t take much
a gentle tug alone
stirs us to move
out of our comfort zone
where courage awaits us

we might blink
unaccustomed
like moles in the light
having to leave behind
our familiar places

we recoil
grip tight on the usual
before reaching out
to touch the new and the next
we’re being called to embrace

eventually
however weak-kneed we feel
our fingers test walls
we probe possibilities
and find our way home
© joylenton

courage - emerging mole - courage poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Down through the centuries in times of trouble and trial God has brought courage to the hearts of those who love Him. The Bible is filled with assurances of God’s help and comfort in every kind of trouble which might cause fears to arise in the human heart. You can look ahead with promise, hope, and joy.” — Billy Graham

Where are you needing courage today, my friend? Turn to God and seek His help. God will always rise to give us strength and help us face whatever is making us afraid. Hold onto God’s promises, and wait for Him to act on your behalf as you take the first tentative steps forward. Though your heart might quake and quail, remember that His courage never fails.

PS: I have a free pdf soul care gift for you today!

< – – Just click on the image here to download it.

It’s called Soul Shots: 31 Days of Pocket Wisdom for Your Hurting Heart, and is an eclectic mix of reflections and poetry.

May it bless and encourage your heart and bring back hope when life gets hard and dark. 🙂 ❤